Are Dental X Rays Safe? – What Every Patient Needs To Know

are dental x rays safe critical dental australia

You may be told you need a dental x-ray during a routine check-up but why are they carried out and, more importantly, are dental x-rays safe?

While a visual examination of your teeth and gums can tell your dentist a certain amount about the condition of your oral health, dental x-rays delve that much deeper.


What are dental x rays?

Dental x-rays are 2-dimensional images of the tooth anatomy and bones in the mouth which lie beneath the surface of your tooth enamel and gums.

While traditionally film-based x-rays have been used by dentists, modern technology has improved the whole procedure with the introduction of digital x-rays. Not only are these quicker to process and more comfortable for patients since the dental x-ray machine can be used chairside, they also expose patients to just 10% of the radiation used in film x-rays.


Who should have a dental x-ray and why?

Dental x-rays enable a dentist to spot any potential problems which could be forming in various parts of an adult’s teeth, jaw, and soft tissues of the mouth which can’t be seen by the naked eye.

They help him or her give an accurate diagnosis and determine the best course of treatment for the dental problem. Also, a dental x-ray enables a dentist to catch and treat potential issues in their early stages before they become more complicated, painful, and expensive.

Using these x-rays a dentist can identify problems such as:

  • Bone loss as a result of severe gum disease
  • Areas of decay, including beneath a filling and between the teeth
  • Infections between the tooth and gum or at the root of a tooth (abscesses)
  • Changes in the root canal
  • Tumours

Without having an x-ray, it’s possible that many of these problems would fail to be diagnosed until pain and deterioration set in.

In addition, dental x-rays enable dentists to plan procedures and treatments such as braces, dentures, and dental implants with more accuracy.


Dental x-rays and children

Many parents are understandably concerned about the effects of a dental x-ray on their child. While children are more sensitive to radiation, the level of radiation in dental x-rays is considered safe for a child.

dental x ray are dental x rays safe critical dental australiaAs children’s teeth and jaws are changing all of the time, it’s important that an eye is kept on their development. Dental x-rays can aid dentists in this respect by;

  • Making sure their mouth is wide enough to accommodate teeth that are growing in
  • Assessing whether their primary teeth are loosening correctly to make way for new permanent teeth
  • Monitoring the development of wisdom teeth
  • Spotting signs of tooth decay and gum disease in its early stages

For these reasons, children should visit their dentist for regular check-ups and receive recommended dental x-rays. Any x-ray schedule will depend on your child’s individual needs.


Are dental x-rays safe for pregnant women?

Generally, pregnant women are advised to avoid dental x-rays altogether. Although radiation levels are extremely low, In order to protect the health of the developing foetus, it’s best to avoid all exposure wherever possible. Because of this, it’s important to let your dentist know if you think you may be pregnant.

That said, there are still some cases where a pregnant woman should have a dental x-ray. For example in a dental emergency or if they fall pregnant while in the middle of a dental treatment plan.

It’s best to discuss the issue with your dentist to discuss the best way forward. It’s extremely important to balance both your prenatal and dental health. It’s been documented that women with periodontal disease are at a higher risk of giving birth prematurely, so teeth should never be neglected while you’re pregnant.


Implementing safety precautions with dental x-rays

There are several things your dentist can do to keep radiation exposure from dental x-rays minimal.

  • Taking a single image instead of multiple images greatly reduces exposure.
  • Lowering the radiation setting on the dental x-ray machine especially where children are concerned.
  • Using a leaded apron as a protective shield from radiation.


Deciding whether X-rays are necessary

The best way of minimising radiation exposure from a dental x-ray is to make sure that it’s only performed when necessary.

X-rays are not required as part of every dental check-up. When you visit a dentist for the first time, they will probably take an x-ray of each side of your mouth to help them build up a clearer picture of your oral structures and health, to assess and best treat your specific needs. This is then used as a baseline going forward.

Having a baseline enables your dentist to compare the results of any x-rays taken at a later date and identify any issues that need treatment. If you’re found to be at low risk of decay, then you may only need an x-ray to be taken every 2 to 3 years. If you’re deemed to be at a higher risk (i.e., you have suffered regular tooth decay, have heavily restored teeth, or periodontal disease) then it’s more likely that a dental x- ray will be taken each year.

To further minimise exposure to radiation from dental x-rays, be sure to transfer any x-rays from a previous dentist to your new dentist, to avoid the need for repeating procedures.


To sum it up

Overall, dental x-rays are considered safe but should, in our opinion, only be used on an as-needed basis. If you feel concerned, then don’t hesitate to talk with your dentist to help understand better how they can help protect and improve your oral health.

Here at Critical Dental, we supply dentists with a wide range of superior x-ray and digital x-ray accessories including imaging plates, cardboard protectors, and image plate hygiene bags. Should you need further information about any of our dental products, don’t hesitate to contact us on (02) 8883 0674.

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